20 Raiders of Liez
Conall held an unusual gadget his father gave him earlier in the day. He gripped a leather strap fastened to a piece of wood. Attached at one end was a round piece of glass, about the width of a hand.
At the other end was a short, flat metal piece that slid back and forth along a groove in the wood. It had a smaller round glass secured to it. Aligning the two glass pieces allowed Conall to see long distances. Adjusting the gap between the two glass pieces made objects appear focused.
The boys huddled along the east side of Rona Island. The higher elevation allowed them to view the Strait. The full moon illuminated the night, making it easy for them to watch an unmarked ship leaving the Strait.
“What do you see?” asked Caleb.
Conall strained his eyes to observe everything he could. “Hard to say. But I’m looking at six or seven body boxes on deck.”
“Father must be right. They are hiding weapons inside the boxes,” Caleb responded.
Josah held his left hand up, motioning Conall to let him use the Viewer. He slipped it on and brought the gadget to his eye. “It’s difficult to see who is onboard the ship, but I’m counting five people.”
He handed the Viewer to Caleb. “That ship will be in open waters by the time we get to the compound. Everything is ready for us to go,” said Josah.
Conall agreed and started his descent. “Come on, Caleb,” he shouted. “You’ve seen enough. We have to go.”
Josah rose to follow but turned around, as the younger Evermore didn’t budge. “Caleb! We will leave you here if you don’t come now!”
The youngest Evermore slipped the Viewer out of his hand and into a pocket in his tunic. The two descended carefully as loose dirt and rocks rolled down. Before long, they made it to the tree line, providing them with better footing.
Conall fumed by the time they reached the flat area behind Baile Sona. “We have a short time to get in and out of Liez! Don’t waste time!”
The three boys went into a full run pass the house and to the pier. Four longboats with volunteers already seated waited for them to arrive. “I saw the ship leave the Strait,” the Captain said. “Did you see anything from up there?”
“Just like you said, Father.” Caleb paused, gasping for air. “Five body boxes on the main deck.”
“The good news is that a shipment of weapons is on its way to somewhere. Now, let’s hope there are more in that warehouse. Hurry. Get in!”
Captain Munro paired the boys with a crew member of similar height and strength. Rolan, his trusted First Mate, occupied the longboat with Josah. Like the other crewman accustomed to life on a ship, his tanned skin and peppered hair made him appear older.
“Remember,” he said. “There is an old sail at the stern of each boat. Use them on your way back. Cover up if you think someone might be watching.”
As the longboats pushed away, Josah saw Yeva Evermore in the courtyard holding a candle. He knew she would worry until they all made it back safely.
Each passenger grabbed an oar and rowed towards the Strait. The strong current leading to the open sea demanded some effort. But once they made it into the channel, the waters were easier to navigate.
One by one, the rowers removed their oar from the sleeve, each taking a position at the stern and bow. They paddled the longboats forward while hugging the cliffs on their left. The pier was now in sight, with a few ships moored.
Josah was hopeful when he didn’t see signs of anyone aboard the docked vessels. His team took the lead to the shore. He jumped out to avoid the hull scraping rocks and making noise. Grabbing the rope tied at the bow, Josah dragged the longboat up on the sand.
There was plenty of room for all four longboats to occupy the sandy shore left of the dock. Each team crouched down and waddled toward a grove of trees. Josah placed his finger to his lips, motioning everyone to keep silent.
Beyond the sand was the Liez pier, empty during these very early hours. There was one row of warehouses lit by the full moon. He motioned to his assigned crewman to lead the way, as he knew where to go. As practiced, each followed in single file, evenly spaced.
The gritty sand on their boots made noise once they reached the cobblestone path. Following the lead, they walked on the grass to knock off as much sand as they could.
On this side of the pier, they could see a second warehouse behind the first. Both had doors on the eastside. They were log buildings, long and narrow, framed with timber posts. The solid construction without windows would keep them undetected once they entered inside.
As they passed the first door, the lead crewman waved his hand in the air, motioning them to continue. They crossed the path separating the two warehouses, then arrived at the second door.
Josah could hear two men talking in the distance but couldn’t see them. “They may be the guards,” he thought.
The door had a wooden handle but no locking mechanism. A bar along the top allowed the door to slide open. Grabbing the handle, the lead crewman pushed it. When it rolled in silence, Josah relaxed.
He slid the door shut once everyone was inside, plunging the space into darkness. One team member carried candles, parchment paper, and a flint. Josah could see an occasional spark as a knife struck the rock.
After several embers landed on the parchment paper, a burning flame appeared. The crewman lit the wick of a candle before stomping on the parchment. He ignited another candle, then passed it on, until each raider held one. There was enough light now to assess what was inside.
Conall walked over to a pine box and tugged at the lid, but nails held it in place. Painted letters on the side read “SPEARS.” He signaled Josah over.
“Gather around,” Josah huffed. “We are in luck. Someone labeled the boxes on the side. This crate is a box of spears. Spread out and look for swords and anything else we can carry. Raise your candle when you find something.”
Taking measured steps, everyone disbursed across the warehouse. Double stacks of boxes seemed to imply that the contents inside were the same. It didn’t take long before team members stood by marked crates and raised their candles.
Josah could only take one box per longboat, so he had one opportunity to choose well. Two crewmen stood by a crate of swords. He motioned them to carry it to the door.
“Don’t block the way out,” he whispered. “Then grab the box of spears in front and put it next in line.”
He continued towards Caleb, then shook his head. “Already have swords. Follow me.”
Josah led Caleb to the next crewman standing by a box of arrows. “Stay here. I’ll send someone to help you.”
“I can do it,” said Caleb.
Josah worried the crate was too heavy for the young Evermore, but he proved him wrong. Making his way to Conall, he hailed the other two men over. Conall held the light right next to the label “MAILLE.” Only Graybard had this type of protection.
This last crate was heavier than expected. Josah tipped the candle on top of the box, then pressed it on the melted wax until it held. The others repeated his actions.
The four of them lifted from the sides of the crate and walked toward the door. Getting all four body boxes in place was simple. The challenge was getting them into the boats, unseen.
“The maille is heavy, so it will take four of us to carry it to the longboat. Caleb, take charge of the door. Slide it open for us, then close it. Conall and I will return to take another box.”
Josah, Conall, and two crewmen stood by the maille crate. “Caleb, get ready to open the door. When I say ‘now,’ blow out the candles.”
“Watch your step!” Conall whispered loudly. “We don’t want any falls.”
Josah took a deep breath, then huffed, “Now!”
The door slid open, while the candles when out at the same time. There was enough light spilling into the warehouse to light the path to the door. Caleb stepped out and motioned them to exit.
The guards they heard talking weren’t around. “Careful, now. We may run into someone as we cross the paths!” Josah warned them.
With four people at the corners, the crew quickened their pace to the pier. Conall glanced over at Josah, relieved to see that he also winced at the weight they carried. As they passed the door to the first warehouse, the crew heard the water lapping the shore.
They were all relieved when the team reached one of the longboats and set the body box in the middle. Josah pointed to the two crewmen. “Cover the crate with the old sail and go back home. Don’t wait for us.”
One man jumped into the stern and grabbed an oar, as the three pushed the boat into the water. Josah expected to hear loud, scraping sounds. But the longboat slid into the water with little effort, as the other man pulled himself into the vessel. One crate was on its way to Rona Island.
Conall tapped Josah’s shoulder and signaled to return to the warehouse. They looked around, then hurried once they confirmed no one was in the area. Reaching the door first, the oldest Evermore slid it open.
Josah pointed to the box of swords, which two stout crewmen lifted it with ease. Caleb motioned them on, shutting the door as they left. He kept the door open slightly to illuminate a small area.
Conall waved Josah over. “I’ll take the spears with Rolan now. Birds are chirping. The morning will break soon.”
He nodded his agreement, pointing Caleb towards the door. Confirming no one was near, they carried the box of spears toward the boats. Josah signaled Caleb over to him. “Grab the crate. We’re leaving now.”
With the door wide open, Caleb nodded. He lifted his end, surprised to find the crate of arrows was heavy. There had to be thousands. But before he could step out, Caleb heard talking. The guards had returned.
He lowered his end of the crate to the floor and slid the door shut with care. Josah understood when Caleb signaled to be quiet. They both waited patiently. The talking persisted, more of a muffled sound from inside the warehouse.
Suddenly, the door slid open. It was Conall. He closed the door with care, ushering the darkness into the warehouse. “There are two guards out front,” he whispered in a husky tone.
“We can’t stay here,” Josah said. “We must be in the boat before the morning breaks.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Caleb said.
Before Conall knew it, Caleb slid the door open and stepped out. “What’s he doing?” Josah hissed.
Conall leaned out and watched his brother run toward the back of the warehouse. He waved at Caleb to come back when he turned around. Unfortunately, the younger Evermore had a different plan.
Caleb ran down the narrow path, counting warehouses. They were three meters apart. When he reached the third one, he turned up the path hurried toward the far end. He stopped at the door and slid it open. Maybe the open door would hide the fact they raided the weapons warehouse.
Looking around the corner, Caleb located the guards standing by the first warehouse. Taking a deep breath, he stepped away from the shadows. The guards stopped talking and stared at the young Evermore. Then Caleb ran.
“Oy! Stop!” shouted a guard, sprinting after the boy.
When Conall heard the guards shouting, he turned to Josah. “He’s leading the guards away. Grab the other end, and let’s go.”
Josah picked up the crate and stepped out of the warehouse. With one hand balancing the body box, he slid the door shut one final time. They pivoted slightly, so they both faced forward. Running as fast as they could, the boys made it to the shore unseen.
They placed the crate inside the last longboat and pushed it into the water. The sky remained dark, but the birds stirred, waiting for the first light of the sun. “Josah, get in with Rolan and head home,”
Conall rebuffed Josah’s objections. “It’s my fault I let Caleb get away from me. I’ll push away and hug the cliffs. When he returns to the shore, I’ll row back and get him.”
There wasn’t room for three people in the boat, as the body boxes were long. He seethed for a moment, jerking his head in anger. But he had no choice.
Rolan rowed close enough for Josah to pull himself into the boat. “Be safe,” was all he could say to Conall. The boy took the remaining oar and paddled away.
“Caleb has put himself in danger!” Josah thought. How could he tell Yeva that he left her two boys in Liez?
The young Evermore ran faster than the guards could run. He grinned as they stopped, holding their sides. Reaching the last two warehouses, Caleb turned into the path between them. He then headed toward the docks.
Caleb planned to cut across the pier to the area they beached the boats. If necessary, he would jump into the bay and swim out to whoever waited for him. He knew Conall or Josah wouldn’t leave him stranded in Liez.
As he reached the end of the last warehouse, Caleb started his turn. He stumbled onto the pier as he ran into somebody. “What do we have here?” Caleb recognized Jeera McKanzel! “If it isn’t the Water Rat’s little brother!”
The boy untangled himself from Delmar, the youngest McKanzel. Both were about the same age and size. But Delmar bore a long scar on the side of his face, the results of a sailing accident.
Mannish, a stout, broad-shoulder boy with long arms, grabbed Caleb and pulled him up to his feet. “Where are your brothers?” he shouted.
Caleb tried to pull away, but Mannish held him with a firm grip. “There’s no one here but me.”
Jeera laughed. “That’s hard to believe.” He turned when the two guards finally caught up to Caleb.
Holding his side, one of them whispered into Jeera’s ear. He nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
The guards glared at Caleb as they waited for instructions. “So, you tried to steal from one of the warehouses? Delmar, take these two and check them all. We may find the brothers hiding in a warehouse.”
“Look, I did nothing. Let me go,” demanded Caleb.
“Really,” mocked Mannish. “Then, what are you doing here so early in the morning?”
“The guard told me you came out of a warehouse. What were you doing? Tell me!” Jeera demanded.
Caleb stood silent. He hung his head, never expecting to run in the McKanzel boys. Jeera, pointing with his chin, said, “Take him to the first warehouse. It’s empty.”
Mannish pulled Caleb’s arm behind him, then shoved him toward the warehouse. When they reached the side door, Jeera slid it open. The room was as big as the warehouse storing weapons, only empty.
Thinking the element of surprise was in his favor, Caleb freed his right hand. He pulled away until he faced Mannish and tried to break free of his grip. In one motion, the McKanzel lad punched the side of Caleb’s head several times. It discouraged him from any more attempts to escape.
“Not in the face, Mannish! We can’t damage our catch,” Jeera grinned. “We can now blame the Evermores for everything!”
Conall had shoved the body box towards the bow, allowing him enough room to slip the oars into the sleeves. He navigated far enough from the pier so he could view the entire shore. To his chagrin, Conall saw several people surrounding Caleb. But he couldn’t see who they were.
He thought about rescuing Caleb, fighting for his freedom. Yet, having two Evermores in captivity would have a more significant impact. The morning sun started to break in the east, casting deeper shadows along the cliff.
The docked ship showed signs of life. Conall knew he had a small window of time to make it out through the Strait, unseen. Disappointed and worried, he took a deep breath and started rowing home.
The currents flowing out to the open waters made it easy for Conall. Deep, strong strokes jettisoned the longboat through the Strait with minimal effort. As he turned to the west, Conall saw the Evermore ships and longboats moored along the pier.
Captain Munro shouted instructions to the boy to navigate between the smaller vessels. Conall had his back turned to them as he rowed home. He didn’t have to see his mother for him to hear her guttural cries.
The crew waited with the Evermores. They pulled the boat tight against the dock, once Conall came within reach. Josah offered his hand and drew him off the longboat.
“Tell me what has happened,” the Captain said.
Conall looked at Josah. “We were in the warehouse, unable to get out. Caleb decided to run out and distract the guards. I tried to get him to come back, but you know how he can be.”
“All right, but where is he?” asked Josah.
The eldest Evermore glanced at his mother, with a kerchief covering her mouth. “Someone captured Caleb.”
Yeva let out a throaty wail, realizing that her worst fear had come true. Conall exhaled before he shared his suspicions. “I couldn’t see who held him, but by the stocky build and long arms, it appeared to be Mannish McKanzel.”
Captain Munro hung his head, hands on his hips. “I knew the McKanzels operated some warehouses. I never expected them to be working so early.”
Yeva steadied her lip with her hand. “Munro, what does this mean?”
The Captain turned to Yeva and hugged her, letting her sob. He whispered something, enough to make her soften her weeping. “We need to be thankful the Liez guards didn’t catch him. They would have dragged him to Lord Vilo.”
“What can we do?” asked Conall, feeling it was his fault.
“We wait,” said the Captain. He turned to the crew. “Can one of you run up the elevation and see if the McKanzel flagship is in port? If it is, then Treynor will deliver the terms.”
Rolan pointed to two men and sent them toward the back of the island. “Look alive!” shouted the Captain. “We’ll have company soon.”
He told Yeva to go back to the house and boil some tea. Pointing to the last body box, Captain Munro asked for volunteers. “Please hide this crate on the Griffin with the others. We don’t want anyone finding these boxes here on the island.”
When the two men returned, gasping for breath, one of them shouted. “Captain, the McKanzel flagship is not at the pier. Jeera is aboard a skiff, making his way to the Strait.”
Munro looked into the sky, sorting out his options. “This means Jeera will come and negotiate Caleb’s release. Rolan, come here.”
He placed on hand on his First Mate’s shoulder. “I need you to take the Griffin and the boxes to Northport. The ship can take the pounding. Remember not to sail parallel to the shore. Tack the ship in and out of the wind until you reach port.”
“And when I reach Northport, what should I do?”
The Captain grimaced. “Unload the cargo and leave it on the pier. Don’t stay. Sail back to Southport and wait for the Molly Red by the Point.”
Leaning closer, the Captain whispered something into his ear. Rolan straightened and saluted by placing his hand on his chest. He ran toward the Griffin, shouting out crew names to follow him. This ship wasn’t as big as the Molly Red but built to sit deep into the turbulent waters of the Northport Sea.
Conall spat on the ground, waiting for his father. “You know, Jeera is a court jester.” He watched Rolan and a small crew climb aboard the Griffin.
“Aye, it may be true,” said the Captain. “But he is keeping Caleb safe from Lord Vilo. Let’s wait for his demands before we decide what to do.”
Josah walked away, looking out to sea. “Bon Abbi must be in the middle of their harvest by now,” he thought.
They did the impossible and collected weapons. But it’s been three days since they came to Rona Island. If they can rescue Caleb today, and the rains hold off for a day, they may get back to Bon Abbi.
Captain Munro walked over to Josah. “You all right?”
He turned and nodded his head. “I have put everyone I care for in danger.”
“Danger was coming anyway, Josah. There is an evil stirring like nothing I have seen before. Don’t worry about Caleb. We’ll get him back.”
“I know,” Josah agreed. “But at what price?”